Chris is a founder of Life and is currently the CEO and Creative Director of this international company. He is frequently listed as a top leadership expert and his blog (www.chrisbrady.com) has been recognized several times as a top management and leadership resource.
“If only I had bought that lakefront property way back when!” “If only I had asked her to marry me before it was too late.” “If only I’d tried harder in school.” “If only I’d been a little more serious when I was younger.” Regrets and “woulda, coulda, shouldas” are part of life for all of us. We have all blown opportunities, missed chances, and somehow squandered important moments. The goal, of course, is to keep these to a minimum while finding a way not to lament overmuch the chances that have gone by. After all, it does no good to keep digging up the past and what we should have done. We can learn from our missteps but should never grow demoralized by them.
Bronnie Ware, a woman who worked for years with the dying, wrote an article sharing “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I wish I had let myself be happier.
There are many such studies. What is striking is how similar the results all seem to be. It appears that when it comes to the living of our lives, we are all a bunch of amateurs. We tend to miss the main things a large part of the time.
As this list suggests, throughout your life, people will try to get you to live the way they see fit. Many of them are well meaning and truly care about you, while others, of course, are not. Sometimes, too, it is difficult to tell one group from the other. Ultimately, though, you’ve got to live your own life. You’ve got to answer that call you feel deep down inside and do what you were uniquely built to do.
It has been said that one route to unhappiness is trying to please everyone. Instead, we should try to please God first, and we will then find that only in doing so can we be pleased with ourselves.
Further, we only regret hard work when it is meaningless. This is why it is so important to align our lives with what we truly feel passionate about contributing. When we work in line with our passions and in pursuit of the highest calling we detect on our lives, we lose the feeling that it is wasted and begin to feel as if it’s a privilege. We come to realize that everything we have been given—our resources, our health, our abilities, our time— is part of the raw material we are to use to fashion our legacy. It is then that we realize that our privileges are not for our pleasure but for our purpose.
Know this: Without exception, our purpose will involve others. Our passions, our desires, our ambitions, and ultimately our legacy, will revolve around how well we did serving others with the days and the resources of our lives. This is why it is futile to become task-oriented at the expense of our relationships. Most of our greatest fulfillment’s in life will come through relationships. They should be given our highest priority. Being a good spouse, parent, grandparent, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, friend, or mentor should be part of any and every focus in our life.
No plan to leave a legacy should slight people or take advantage of them in any way. Quite the opposite: Our life’s direction, contribution, and legacy should be with, for, and about people. Forget this one simple truth, and be prepared to suffer the deepest regrets imaginable. Remember it, and you can rest assured that your life will not have been wasted, that not all of your potential was lost in spillage, and that, yes, you did accomplish something because no matter where else you failed, you at least managed to matter to someone.
Leaders must cultivate the ability to make good decisions. This requires the ability to discern between multiple options that may all appear to have near-equal merit. It will also occasionally require going against accepted procedures or violating orders. Rules are a double-edged sword; great leaders understand both edges and make their decisions accordingly. Discernment comes with experience and a clear understanding of principles and objectives. Leaders who comprehend the bigger picture and their role in it develop the ability to discern between the challenging choices with which they are confronted.
Illustration: The Failure to Conquer Sailors’ Worst Enemy
To sailors in the age of fighting sail, there was an enemy to be feared more than rival combatants, cannon fire, musket balls, grapeshot, and cutlasses combined. Between 1500 and 1800, this enemy is estimated to have killed at least two million sailors. During the eighteenth century, this enemy killed more British sailors than enemy action. In George Anson’s voyage of 1740–1742, this enemy killed more than two-thirds of his crew (1,300 out of 2,000) within the first ten months of the voyage. During the Seven Years’ War (1754–1763), the Royal Navy enlisted 184,999 sailors, of which 133,708 were killed by this enemy.
If you were responsible for the lives of sailors during this time, you would think that conquering this enemy would be your number-one priority. But strangely, naval leaders put far more focus on tactics and strategies for capturing enemy ships and sailors than on this killer.
The enemy I’m referring to is scurvy. A disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which causes malaise, lethargy, skin spots, spongy gums and loss of teeth, bleeding from the mucous membranes, neuropathy, and, most important, death, scurvy has a fascinating history. Over the centuries, cures for scurvy have been repeatedly discovered and then forgotten.
The disease was first documented by Hippocrates as early as the fifth century BC. Crusaders in the thirteenth century suffered frequently from scurvy. In Vasco da Gama’s 1497 expedition, sailors understood that citrus fruit had a curative effect on the disease. In 1536, while exploring the St. Lawrence River in Canada, the French explorer Jacques Cartier and his men were saved from the disease by local natives, who taught them to make a tea from the needles of White Cedar trees, which are high in vitamin C. In 1593, Admiral Sir Richard Hawkins taught his men to drink orange and lemon juice to prevent scurvy.
Without being able to isolate vitamin C, doctors and scientists did not understand why these acidic substances cured scurvy but only that they were effective. In 1614, John Woodall, Surgeon General of the East India Company, published a handbook for apprentice surgeons aboard company ships in which he recommended fresh food when available and when not, oranges, lemons, limes, and tamarinds—and, as a last resort, sulfuric acid. (The belief was that the acid, not vitamin C, had the curative effect, and therefore any acid would do.) Physician Johann Bachstrom published a book on scurvy in 1734, stating that “scurvy is solely owing to a total abstinence from fresh vegetable food, and greens, which is alone the primary cause of the disease”3 and urging the use of fresh fruits and vegetables as a cure.
In the 1740s, James Lind began clinical trials—the first controlled experiments in the history of medicine—to discover the cause and a cure for the disease. By 1747, he had proven that scurvy could be treated and prevented with citrus fruit. He officially published his findings in 1753 and then attempted to sell lime juice as a medicine. But because the vitamin C in his juice became oxidized, it had no effect in treating scurvy, and therefore the Royal Navy did not adopt the solution until the 1790s. The belief that any acid would have a curative effect on scurvy persisted in Britain into the late nineteenth century.
The first major long-distance voyage without a fatal outbreak of scurvy was made by Spanish naval officer Alessandro Malaspina, whose medical officer, Pedro González, was convinced that fresh oranges and lemons prevented the disease. It wasn’t until the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) that scurvy was finally eradicated from the Royal Navy, due to the efforts of Gilbert Blane, the chairman of the Royal Navy’s Sick and Hurt Board, who implemented the use of fresh lemons. Interestingly, the remarkable health improvement that ensued among sailors played a critical role in subsequent naval battles, notably the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1867, the British passed the Merchant Shipping Act, which required all ships of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy to provide a daily lime ration to sailors to prevent scurvy. The term “limey,” referring to British sailors, derives from this practice.
But even after the 1867 act, British sailors continued to suffer from scurvy well into the twentieth century. The reasons were because the belief still prevailed that the acid did the trick, and much of the lime juice used aboard ships was exposed to light and air, thus oxidizing and reducing the vitamin C content. In fact, in 1918, an experiment was performed using samples of the Navy and Merchant Marine’s lime juice and showed that it had virtually no antiscorbutic power. It wasn’t until the belief that scurvy was a nutritional deficiency, best treated by eating fresh food, particularly fresh citrus or fresh meat, became universal in the early twentieth century that scurvy began disappearing for good. The reason why was not discovered until ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was isolated in 1932 by Hungarian biochemist Szent-Györgyi and found to be the antiscorbutic agent (rather than mere acid).
Understanding and Application
This may seem like somewhat of an odd example to use for the principle of discernment. But when you think about it, it’s actually quite a profound and useful example. When more sailors are dying from scurvy than combat, wouldn’t you think that you should pour resources into finding a cure for the disease?
One primary job of a leader is to discern where resources are needed the most to have the greatest impact on the objectives. This example is akin to a software company today pouring all its resources into creating superior technology when its people are leaving in droves because of a diseased culture. In this case, superior technology depends on a superior team; until the leader cures the culture, the technology cannot be created.
Perhaps one reason why Britain’s Royal Navy, or any singular country, for that matter, did not allocate resources toward finding a cure for scurvy is that the navies of all nations suffered from the same disease. In other words, if a problem is the same for you and all your competitors—if none of your competitors have an advantage when it comes to this problem—why seek a solution?
But this is where the discernment of a leader is critical. The fact that British sailors were healthier and suffered less from scurvy than their combatants played a critical role in the Battle of Trafalgar. When leaders can find areas for improvement that their competitors ignore, superiority can be achieved. Sometimes, the place to focus is not where leaders traditionally focus (e.g. superior technology, greater capital, improved production processes, etc.) but rather on overlooked areas that can have a dramatic impact on productivity and results. This requires discernment on the part of the leader to analyze his or her organization and determine critical areas that must be addressed.
One of the most critical skills leaders must develop is the ability to make the right decisions—especially under fire. They must learn to see not just two or a handful of options but a multiplicity of them. They must be able to weigh the merits of each. Then, they must know which option to choose.
In many cases, this may require going against protocol, breaking rules, violating orders. Hence, a leader must also be aware of the consequences of his decisions and actions. It is precisely this awareness that allows a leader to break rules when a situation demands it; a good leader would rather face criticism from superiors than lose people and battles because he failed to make the right decision in the heat of battle.
Leaders are not rigid dogmatists but rather flexible pragmatists. They hold their integrity, principles, values, and ideals inviolate. But when it comes to strategies, tactics, and procedures, they do what it takes to achieve the objectives—even if it means breaking the rules. They do this because they understand the why behind rules. They see the big picture. They don’t necessarily flaunt rules, but neither do they worship them.
Great leaders make decisions that, in the moment, appear to others to be foolhardy and reckless. But when the smoke clears, their decisions are actually realized to be less a product of courage than a product of wisdom and discernment.
To accept the challenge of leadership is to accept responsibility. It is to shoulder burdens that others are unwilling to bear. It is to engage in a relentless pursuit of excellence, to never rest on your laurels, to always strive to improve your performance and results. A leader cannot blame anyone else for his or her team’s lack of results. The only finger a leader can ever point—if he or she wants to be effective—is at him- or herself.
Many people aspire to leadership because of the potential glory it offers while being ignorant of the certain loneliness it requires. Before a leader can earn great rewards, he or she must first bear an unfair load. While a leader cannot point fingers of blame, there are always plenty of fingers pointed at a leader by other people. Everyone looks to the leader for ultimate responsibility. It’s not fair; nor is it easy.
US President Harry Truman kept a sign on his desk that expressed the lesson of the unfair load well. It said: “The buck stops here.” Effective leadership is an exercise in extreme responsibility. Even when other people are to blame for something that goes wrong, you can’t point fingers at anyone except yourself. A true leader never whines that his or her people “just don’t get it.” Rather, a true leader asks him- or herself, “Where have I failed? What must I learn from this? What more can I do?” Great leaders are hard on themselves and easy on others. That example of extreme personal accountability inspires others to follow suit and creates a culture of accountability.
As a leader, you will be required to deal with things that are unfair. You will be called to shoulder extra burdens. People will blame you for things that really aren’t your fault. You will be criticized and scorned, overlooked and belittled, neglected and rejected. But if you stick with it through those hard times, you will also be recognized, praised, and rewarded. You will grow in ability and influence. You will feel the profound satisfaction that only comes from knowing you have made a difference. There’s nothing easy about leadership. But those willing to accept the unfair load “wouldn’t be elsewhere for thousands,” as Lord Nelson put it.
“When I look back over my life, the times I’ve struggled have not been fun. But they appear in broad relief, now, as the greatest moments of change and personal growth. I would not be who I am today without those trials and struggles that made me stronger and better. ” – Chris Brady
Most everyone has heard the phrase, “Dream, Struggle, Victory.” And it seems that there is a lot of literature out there addressing the first and the last of those three terms. But is it not interesting how little coverage is given to the struggle part?
Obviously, if we undertake some great endeavor we are going to struggle to accomplish it. What most people might not realize, however, is that the struggle is probably the most important part. It is the struggle that makes us grow. It is the struggle that reveals the character we have deep inside for continuing onward in the face of adversity. And it is the struggle that makes for any good movie or story of achievement.
One author I have read actually referred to it as the “gift of struggle.” Perhaps some would think it was going too far to call struggle a gift, but I believe it to be one. If you stop and think about it, the struggle is the only place in which we grow. It is the struggle that makes us stronger. No bodybuilder would be able to build muscle mass without weight or resistance. The pushing against or raising of the weight strains and pulls at the muscle fibers, which then need to repair themselves. Only in this repair process are the muscles made a little stronger than they were before. More lifting causes the cycle to start over again, until the muscles are bigger and stronger than ever before – all because of the “damage” of the struggle and the repair that was necessary afterward. Struggles in our lives works the same way. Just like lifting weights, they do not necessarily feel good. And they can and often do cause pain. But how we handle those struggles, and what we do to overcome them and “repair” our commitment to the dream, will build us stronger than we were before the struggle occurred.
In Launching a Leadership Revolution, co-author Orrin Woodward and I even give special consideration to the topic of struggle in the section on mentorship. A good mentor knows that his protégé must struggle to become great, to grow, and to maximize, so he allows the struggles while teaching the protégé how to handle them, overcome them, and learn from them. Some might call this callous or cold; some might call it lack of caring on the part of the mentor. After all, who would let someone struggle? Why would one not want to swoop in and eliminate the struggle for the protégé and make his or her way easier? It is the same as teaching our child to walk. If every time she started to bobble we grabbed her and kept her from falling, we would appear to be helping her. We would appear to be caring. But actually, we would be hurting our child by trying to help her too much. One of the greatest things my parents and mentors have done for me is to give me the encouragement to try, and then allowed me to make my own mistakes and learn from them. By creating my own messes, and knowing full well that I had the responsibility alone for my actions and cleaning them up, so to speak, I was allowed to struggle and grow through those adversities. When I look back over my life, the times I’ve struggled have not been fun. But they appear in broad relief, now, as the greatest moments of change and personal growth. I would not be who I am today without those trials and struggles that made me stronger and better.
So embrace the struggle. It is not a bad word. Is is not to be avoided. And when you see it in the life of those you love and mentor, of course, do what you can to keep them from actual harm. But in the course of events, allow them to take responsibility for their own lives, allow them to struggle against the resistance, and therefore build their mental muscles stronger. For out of the greatest adversity comes the greatest opportunity, and in those moments the greatest leaders are made.
Ships may be safe at harbor, but they were not made for the harbor, they were made for the dangerous high seas. And leaders may be safe on the couch, but they were not born for the couch, they were born for the tumultuous waters of engagement.
Have a dream. Embrace the struggle. Capture the victory!
The concept of “leadership” is a complex one. Most everybody has a feel for what the term means, at least in a general sense, but generalizations about leadership don’t help us very much. In order to understand how to lead and why to lead and what it even means to lead, we’d better get clear on what comprises this complex idea embodied in this simple little English word.
We’ve tried this exercise of defining leadership with audiences large and small, and invariably the same thing happens. We begin getting word phrases that all sound pretty good, phrases like “taking responsibility” and “getting results,” or one-word descriptors such as “commitment,” “perseverance,” “charisma,” and “integrity.” These are all true in a sense, but somehow they don’t go far enough. So then we switch to attempting definitions by combining all these phrases, but it creates so much mumbo jumbo, like one big buzzword soup from a corporate boardroom. Somehow the words meant something to us individually when thinking about leadership, but when fused together, the life went right out of them.
At this point, it may be helpful to turn to some experts on the subject. Surely they can bring some congruity. The list that follows is just a short offering:
James C. Hunter: “We define leadership . . . as a skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good.”
Al Kaltman: “The successful leader gets superior performance from ordinary people.”
Bill George: “The leader’s job is to provide an empowering environment that enables employees to serve their customers and provides them the training, education, and support they need.”
Andy Stanley: “Leaders provide a mental picture of a preferred future and then ask people to follow them there.”
Vance Packard: “Leadership is getting others to want to do something that you are convinced should be done.”
Garry Wills: “Leadership is mobilizing others toward a goal shared by the leader and followers.”
Alan Keith: “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”
George Barna: “A leader is one who mobilizes; one whose focus is influencing people; a person who is goal driven; someone who has an orientation in common with those who rely upon him for leadership; and someone who has people willing to follow them,” and “Leadership is the process of motivating, mobilizing, resourcing, and directing people to passionately and strategically pursue a vision from God that a group jointly embraces.”
Kenneth O. Gangel: “I consider leadership to be the exercise of one’s special gifts under the call of God to serve a certain group of people in achieving the goals God has given them toward the end of glorifying Christ.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
These insights and definitions are good and helpful, and some we like particularly, but John Maxwell gives an exemplary definition, quoted here at length from his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership:
Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less. People have so many misconceptions about leadership. When they hear that someone has an impressive title or an assigned leadership position, they assume that he is a leader. Sometimes that’s true. But titles don’t have much value when it comes to leading. True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that can’t be mandated. It must be earned.
What, then, is influence? Our favorite explanation of influence comes to us from nineteenth-century preacher and author Albert Barnes: “Influence is that in a man’s known talents, learning, character, experience, and position, on which a presumption is based that what he holds is true; that what he proposes is wise.”
George Barna tells us, “To be effective, a leader must have influence. But influence is a product of great leadership; it is not synonymous with it. You can have influence in a person’s life without leading him anywhere.”
Perhaps there will never be a short, cute definition for leadership. We are certain there will never be one upon which all “experts” agree. This very difficulty in arriving at a concise explanation for the concept illustrates the enormity of the subject at hand. But all of the above definitions hit near the same mark. Any attempts to be more concise or specific are like trying to grab smoke. For the purpose of this study, then, we will fuse the above commentary into the following:
Leadership is the influence of others in a productive, vision-driven direction
and is done through the example, conviction, and character of the leader.
Those who take active responsibility to foster their motivation on a regular basis will outperform those who do not. It is the responsibility of the leader to keep him or herself hungry on a regular basis. Napoleon Hill, author of the world-famous book Think and Grow Rich, said, “One must realize that all who have accumulated great fortunes first did a certain amount of dreaming, hoping, wishing, desiring, and planning before they acquired money.”
All of leadership starts with hunger. At any point in time when the leader is not hungry, the leader is not functioning as a leader. This may sound radical, but it is true. Remember, a leader takes people somewhere. The moment the leader is not moving, the leader is not leading. And it takes ambition to keep the leader moving.
Picture success as a road that leads to your dreams:
Along each side of the road are shoulders. Often the shoulders of roads are comprised of gravel. If a driver inadvertently runs onto the gravel, the sound serves as a warning that a course correction is required to resume traveling safely on the road. Conversely, sometimes that same gravel can grip the wheels of the vehicle and pull it from the road into the ditch.
On the left shoulder is comfort. Comfort is fine in small doses and in certain areas of life, but, like gravel, it can also serve as a warning. Remember, ambition flourishes in discontent with the status quo. Discontent and comfort cannot coexist. If a leader becomes too comfortable, ambition will die, and the soft gravel of comfort can pull him or her down into the Ditch of Complacency. Complacency is defined by Webster as “self satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” Complacency pulls a leader from the road of success and halts all travel toward his or her dreams, as when a car is stuck in a ditch.
There is another danger in traveling too close to the Shoulder of Comfort: opposing traffic. Most people in life are looking for the easy road. They want comfort and will pay the price of mediocrity to get it, so they rush toward it like cows to the barn at feeding time. If a leader attempts to lead from a position of comfort, he or she will run smack into that mass of traffic heading in the other direction away from dreams and toward mediocrity.
Leaders, however, shun comfort and seek excellence instead. They subscribe to the theory held by author Al Kaltman: “Without meaningful work, life stinks.” They travel down the right lane in the diagram and away from oncoming traffic. The right lane is never crowded. There always seems to be a shortage of leaders but a plethora of people heading the other way. This is one thing that makes a leader so special. Also notice that being a leader means traveling close to the Shoulder of Frustration. In fact, this is the mark of any true leader. Being a leader is a study in managed frustration. How can one have ambition for a brighter tomorrow without being frustrated at the current set of realities? How can a leader be at war with the status quo and not be frustrated at the same time? The answer, of course, is that no leader can. Any real leader traveling the Road of Success toward his or her dreams will encounter frustration along the journey. Frustration can be healthy, but just like the shoulder on the other side of the road, this gravel of frustration presents a trap. Too much frustration can be a warning to the leader that his or her attitude is dipping and could pull the leader down into the Ditch of Discouragement. Discouragement is a showstopper because it robs the leader of hope. Without hope, the leader is trapped in the Ditch of Discouragement and makes no further progress toward his or her dreams.
The only way to stay away from oncoming traffic, the Shoulder of Comfort, and the Ditch of Complacency—and the only way to travel near the Shoulder of Frustration but clear of the Ditch of Discouragement—is to focus straight ahead on the dreams in front of you. Having a dream focus keeps a leader safely on the Road to Success. The best way to stay focused is to manage that hunger.
So staying hungry is actually a discipline. Webster defines discipline as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties.” Hunger is certainly a mental faculty; notice that it needs training, molding, and perfecting. True leaders understand this and take the necessary steps on a regular basis to provide their hunger with the proper care and feeding. Many times, leaders don’t need to know more about what is to be done; they just need to find more leverage for themselves to do what they already know how to do.
Anyone who has spent any time around me at all will likely know that one of my favorite quotes (attributed to D.L. Moody) is:
“Our greatest fear should not be that we will not succeed, but rather that we will succeed at something that doesn’t matter.”
It is easy to run for the wrong things in life. We can fall prey to the world’s definition of success, going for glitter instead of gold.
So what really does matter in life? What is gold when it comes to achieving success?
I believe my friend and often co-author Orrin Woodward has expressed it well in a recent blog post (you can read it here). His main point is that one can strive for Net Worth (in which money is stacked higher and higher) or Net Impact (in which people are served in the most important ways). I think we can all readily agree that striving after a success that serves people and changes lives is much more important than accumulating wealth.
Net Impact should trump Net Worth every time.
The particular cause Orrin uses to highlight this point is certainly worthy. The evils of human trafficking, involving unspeakable injustices and crimes, should enrage us all. I am thankful that people like Tim Ballard and organizations like his Operation Underground Railroad exist to fight those evils. That is why Terri and I are wholeheartedly supporting the Life on Life Initiative involving a partnering between All Grace Outreach and Operation Underground Railroad. We are raising funds to help those who are in dire straights and cannot help themselves.
I’ll end with another famous quote (by Edmund Burke):
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Good men and women are not doing nothing, they are taking action! I am proud of the many people in Life who are working toward their Net Impact by raising funds and awareness for this important issue. Thank you all! May your Net Impact be huge!
These are busy times in which we live. Electronic media and technology have invaded nearly every aspect of our lives in the name of convenience. Many couples are each working jobs. Then there are the children, activities at church, chores around the house, banking and errands and obligatory parties and gatherings. Who among us hasn’t felt the pressure of the hustle and bustle of our modern way of living?
It seems as if “busyness” has infected us all. None of us in immune. It calls to mind the quote from Henry David Thoreau who wrote: “It is not enough to be busy, so too are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” I have always liked this quote, because it cuts directly to the heart of the matter. Author Marshall Goldsmith states, “It is time to stop dreaming of a time when you won’t be busy.”
Apparently, being busy is just part of life. It has probably always been this way since the days when gathering fire wood, hunting, and preparing meals consumed all of one’s time. But busyness is no excuse for lack of performance, or more importantly, lack of living an authentic, purposeful, significant life. We simply must find a way to cut through it all and make our days count.
Who hasn’t tried some sort of time management tool? Who hasn’t struggled to live according to one’s priorities? It all makes much more sense when we sit through the lecture series or read the brochures, but when it comes to truly living these principles, things seem to go awry.
Rascals, however, find a way. They understand their priorities and find a way to align their actions accordingly. There are several factors that play into this. As we have already discussed, one way is to have a clear and definite purpose in mind.
In the Bible we are told of three wise men traveling from the east around the time of the birth of Jesus. It is thought by historians that these men were likely from the land of Persia. A quick glance at the map shows many geographic obstacles between the heart of Persia and tiny Judea. We are told that these men traveled across these difficult and hazardous lands by following a bright star shining in the sky. This star provided a point of navigation to keep them on track no matter what challenges they encountered below; be it bandits, rivers, mountains, deserts, or jealous kings. In similar fashion, Rascals navigate through the pressures of their lives by progressing toward something solid and clean on their horizon. No matter what is encountered, a true Rascal can follow his own path if guided by a star in his future sky. Looking up is the best way to pass through things that can bring you down. It’s when your focus is bigger than your obstacles that you can make progress.
Having clear and energizing goals is another major tactic to avoid the trap of busyness. Goals should be exciting, stretching, and specific. If they don’t exert a power to perform, then they are not believable enough, not specific enough, or not short-term enough.
Goals make prioritization easy. One can simply ask, “Will this help me get closer to my goal?” If not, it shouldn’t be done. Notice how difficult this becomes if there is no goal. But with a goal, once can look at anything and everything that comes along and determine, “Does this fit?” and “What’s important next?”
This is all critical because the enemy of great is “good.” There are literally millions of good things out there we could be doing with our time. There are pass-times and hobbies and people and places to visit, things to explore and activities with which to become involved. Any of these things may be fine on their own. However, if we do not learn to distinguish between great and good, we will waste countless hours doing good things while missing out on the great. Focus is so important, and if we have a clearly defined goal, making decisions about what is good and what is great to do next becomes easier in light of that goal.
There is another concept that we will call ‘pruning.’ This is something a Rascal does every time he feels the press of too many things or activities around him. Somehow he has allowed too many commitments, interests, or distractions into his life. The only prudent thing to do at this point is to make adjustments, deciding that some things simply have to go. Which activities are not central to achieving the goal? Which are not directly in line with life’s purpose? Which can wait until later? As hard as it may be, one has to get good at saying ‘no’ to a lot of good things in order to preserve space for the great things. In other words, a Rascal is slow to allow anyone to complicate his life.
It should be clear at this point that Rascals who achieve the most are the best at focusing upon what is most important in terms of their goals and overall purpose. They keep themselves free of the distractions of lesser things and ensure that their busyness is about something meaningful and in line with their larger purpose.
1. Learning 2. Performing 3. Leading 4. Developing leaders 5. Developing leaders who develop leaders
Great mentoring is all about levels four and five. Brady and Woodward said, “When we wrote the book, we didn’t know it would become a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller. We didn’t know that many thousands of people would embrace it and use it to build companies that build leaders. But we did know that leadership is only level 3, and that even more important than leadership is developing leaders.”
In short, the greatest mentors don’t mentor only those they work with directly. Rather, they think of the people their mentees will mentor and even those who will be mentored
four or five generations ahead, and they help their mentees become the type of mentors who can become great mentors of mentors.
For example, consider how this works in a family setting. Some people focus on their career as the center point of life. Ask most people what they do in life, and they’ll say they’re a doctor, attorney, accountant, businessperson, engineer, or some other profession.
Sometimes, in contrast, we meet people who answer the same question by saying, “I’m a dad,” “I’m a father to three great children,” or “I’m a wife and mother.” While this cheeky answer frequently indicates that the person has given a lot of thought to his or her life purpose and priorities, the truth is that there is an even better way.
On one level, we can focus on our work life as the center of our purpose.
At a higher level, we can make our marriage and parental relationships the top priority.
At an even better level, we can be the kind of parents who wisely and consciously raise our grandkids—even when our own kids are just little. This means thinking through what we’re really doing as parents. Are we just career people who happen to have kids? Hopefully not.
Likewise, are we spouses and parents raising kids to be confident, contributing adults? This is a good step.
Or are we, above all, future grandparents who are raising our kids to be fantastic parents who themselves will raise their children in a way that positively influences several generations to come? Those who see their role in such far-reaching generational terms will approach their marriage and parenting in a purposeful way.
The same applies to business mentoring. If we mentor only the people with whom we work directly, we won’t be as helpful to them as if we see our role as one of mentoring them to be great mentors of mentors.
There is an old rock band (with a heavy emphasis on old) named The Grateful Dead. I have never really listened to their music and don’t know much about them, but apparently, they have a huge cult following and have made quite a career out of live performances. They may be very good, for all I know. However, I have never been able to get around their stupid and morbid name. Grateful Dead? What in the world does that mean? Is it someone’s attempt at being clever? Is it supposed to be counter-intuitive? Is it meant to be shocking?
Some questions, such as these, aren’t really worth pursuing very far. When it comes right down to it, the origin behind a rock band name chosen decades ago by some musicians isn’t very important. But the concept their name evokes, or rather, the opposite of that concept, is being grateful for being alive. Now this is a worthy topic!
Life is magnificently rich and complex, wonderful and varied, pleasurable and diverse. It is so indescribably impossible to describe that one can’t even begin to describe it. We all know about life because we are all alive. We know it as well as anyone could know a thing because we are it. We experience it every second of our existence with every breath we take. However, much like a fish in water, we are so close to it that we often don’t even think of it at all.
And that, I think, explains how we can get off track in our attitudes about life. We are so used to being alive that we take it for granted.
No one wants to be around someone like that. But in truth, if we are honest, all of us have had lapses in our lives when we too were not as grateful as we should have been. We have had moments when we have forgotten the many blessings we have and all the things for which we should be thankful.
Remind yourself to strive to be the kind of person who notices the gift of life, maintains the sense of wonder at all this world holds in store, and is deeply grateful for every little blessing that comes your way. As a result, you will be happier and more fulfilled, with the added bonus that you will be more enjoyable to be around as well.
While it is true that no one wants to be around an ungrateful person, the opposite is that people will clamor to be in your presence when you are appreciative and grateful, thankful and polite.